Wasn't Born an Angel
Chapter 51: Dixon
It stained his hands...him...in every way.
Blood flowed through your veins...too much poured out, you were dead, simple as that.
The blood on his hands...it was his...so much so if he’d bled it, he’d be dead and gone.
Black...the blood was almost black...sticky and congealing between his fingers...but there was no warmth to it...no life.
Blood was who you were...could never change that even if you did bleed it all out.
There were some things you should never do to your own blood...but...
He might be damned, but this purge...this bloodletting...maybe it was the only way he could ever actually claim what was his...
Who in the hell said you couldn’t go home? Even with the rest of civilization crumbled ‘round them...at least the getting there part was simpler than he ever could’ve hoped.And oddly, without any other human presence or walkers crossing their path, the world was still and peaceful, a quiet overtaking the tumult that was once its death throes...a world that just finally gave up. But that didn’t mean it was easy...just ‘cause the house was right where he left it. Daryl was assaulted by a barrage of contradictions battling in his being. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the old place was still standing...as it was...while anxiety sunk its claws deep in his gut. Swore when he left he’d never come back. But things had changed. It was hard...but Beth...she made it easier...made it worth it.
She exuded excitement. He could feel it radiating off her while she paced a small path behind him across the porch, the loose splintered boards creaking and complaining under even her slight weight. The shack was still standing...that’s what he’d been hoping for...but Beth was wound tight as a little kid on Christmas morning waiting to see what presents were left under the tree. Not that he knew what that felt like, but seeing Beth and the hope glinting in her eyes when he threw a glance back at her...he could almost imagine. She didn’t say nothin’, just waited patiently after he banged the door with the butt of his bow...as patiently as she could, pacing out the slow seconds, waiting for the all clear...Daryl holding his breath, anticipation peaking then dissipating when nothing came...all quiet. He wasn’t afraid of what was on the other side of that door anymore; he knew what was there. Places like this didn’t change. It had to be about them...what they made it together.
Just cracking the door and throwing his bow over his shoulder, turning back to Beth and seeing her expression go from still to joyous...that smile gracing her pretty face...he couldn’t help it either, his own happiness cutting into his cheeks. She squealed and giggled all surprised when he swept her up, Beth hooking an arm around his neck.
“Daryl, what are you...?” Her smile even brighter...that girl was glowin’.
And she didn’t have to ask; she knew. But Daryl needed to say it...
“Doin’ things proper.” Booting the door wide open so he could get both of them through without banging Beth’s head and ruining everything. “Welcome home, Beth...”
Beth saw it...him...first...over his shoulder, its boney fingers grabbing him good and tight, trying to drag him down. Beth slipped outta his arms, tumbling to the floor, trying to catch herself, Daryl going for his knife as he spun instead of stumbling. And just like that, the fairytale beginning was over...over before it started.
Daryl couldn’t grip his knife. He couldn’t keep his feet. Tripping and falling backwards on top of Beth...trapping her but at least shielding her. Couldn’t seem to do nothin’ else.
Helpless...frozen...barely able to hold the snapping, snarling, drooling thing back by its thick, fleshy neck.
“Daryl...kill it!” Frantic...poor Beth couldn’t do nothin’ to save either of them. “Daryl...”
She couldn’t understand...
Buther cries woke him to reality.
Flat-footing it in the chest with all his strength, Daryl must’ve shattered its decaying ribcage, but that wouldn’t stop it much less kill it. It did knock it out the front door, caught by the rickety railing; there wasn’t enough force behind his kick to flip it off the porch. It was just a matter of time...seconds...‘til it came back at ‘em...Daryl watching it regain its footing while he couldn’t even regain his senses. Beth pushed out from beneath him, scrambling to the door, slamming it, back sliding down the rough-hewn wood ‘til her bottom hit the floor pressing up against it...securing it...Beth able to hold it closed.
Its scratching and clawing outside...Daryl felt bile rising in his stomach, burning in his throat...remembering the night in the funeral parlor. He couldn’t hold ‘em back...that door...he couldn’t save her...
She was huffing and cradling her sides...he should ask if she was okay...he’d hurt her, falling on her and crushing her...but he couldn’t form the words. He couldn’t even catch his breath, barely holding himself up with fingers clenching desperately at the ratted rug under his sorry ass.
Beth just watched him...she didn’t understand...but she didn’t ask either.
“It’s just one. I’ll get it.” She found her feet, going to free her knife as she rose.
“No!” She wasn’t gonna take this one out...no...Daryl forced into action. “No...he...it ain’t gonna stain our home. No more blood...no more blood here.”
Beth cocked her head, waiting for more...maybe an explanation...but he couldn’t tell her.
“I’m gonna lead it away into the woods. You stay here...you hear me?”
“No, Beth.” No negotiation. This was something he had to do...he had to do it alone.
He bound the damned thing to a slender pine tree, arms tight behind its back wrapped in rusted barbed wire. Watching it pull and jerk, shredding and sawing the flesh away at its wrists so violently, Daryl was sure it was gonna rip off one of its own arms trying to get loose...trying to lunge at him, but never again...never. Truth was, Daryl hadn’t led the damned thing all the way out here just to put it down...there was more he needed. He wasn’t being stupid though...held it down in the rocky dirt and bashed out all the teeth it had left before he tied it up, but it still wanted at him despite the fact it couldn’t bite. Probably hadn’t figured that out yet, and it wasn’t gonna stay reanimated long enough to. Just long enough for Daryl to...what? Do what? Would any of it even matter?
It was a pitiful thing left standin’ before him...but he didn’t pity it...him. Not after everything. Maybe it was Daryl who was the pitiful one...the hold it still had over him...a lion without teeth, but the memory of its jaws crushing him still stung Daryl enough he froze up.Froze up and couldn’t protect Beth from one fucking walker. What in the hell was he doin’ anyway...playing at being prince charming, carrying Beth over the threshold into their ramshackle castle? Sure, there was nothin’ in the house, but he didn’t even secure the perimeter to see what was lurking ‘round the corner. It heard him, took him unawares, and he couldn’t even find his balls to clutch his knife and brain the bastard to protect Beth. And she was the one that held the door. Didn’t know if it was all the romantic notions and love that made him stupid or coming home and what was waiting for him that emasculated him...but he was proving he could never hold that door and protect Beth...
Tin cans rattled on the perimeter alarm he'd set on the porch. A dog yipped. There was scratching at the door.
He was gonna give that stupid dog one last chance...and it bought him time to get his thoughts together since his tongue was all tied up...didn’t know how to say it all.
More scratching and banging. That old mutt was impatient this time around.
His reaction time was quick...but it didn’t matter...his reaction didn’t matter with what was on the other side of that door. Maybe if he hadn’t opened it, they would stand a chance, but he got all stupid...didn’t even look out that window to check...a million thoughts flooding his head...then consumed by just one. Not survive...not his survival at least...but Beth.
Daryl's back pressed desperately against the door...the only thing standing between them and the end...trying...trying to hold the walkers back. But trying wasn’t good enough. He wasn't strong enough. He wasn’t enough.
"Beth! Beth!" She tossed him his crossbow...knew exactly what he called out for. "Run! Run!"
Trying to grind his boot heels in the floor...get traction...
"Pry open a window. Get your shit."
He was slipping...sliding forward...wouldn’t do no good if his ass hit the floor. No choice...couldn’t hold the door.
They were close behind him now...didn't even have a chance to reload his bow.
"I'm not gonna leave you!" Beth cried out to him.
If those were the last words he ever heard...they fortified his heart and gave him courage...courage was different than instinct. He could die a courageous man. Leading those walkers down into that basement, he didn’t have no expectation of getting out alive...he didn’t have to as long as she had a chance...
But that wasn’t how it worked out at all. So distracted by what he was feeling...what he wanted to say to her that he just couldn’t get the words out...then it was too late. He couldn’t save her...couldn’t save Beth; by the time he made it out alive, she was already gone. He couldn’t hold that fucking door. That moment was where he made the one decision that condemned Beth to all the horror she faced...the things he couldn’t protect her from, and it played over in his head time and time again...a redundancy...like instinct reminding him how much his mistake cost. And the ghosts of their past...
No...Daryl wasn’t pitiful. Wasn’t gonna fail her. Beth made him strong...dangerous...fierce if he let it...got his head outta the fucking clouds. One walker. He let one walker...this walker...steal his wits today...almost stole his chance at life with Beth from him when it already stole so much of his life. It couldn’t happen again...it wouldn’t...no matter what Daryl had to do to keep her alive. She was gonna live. They got to live.
He hadn’t actually meant to do what he did...hands washed red...disemboweled the thing, guts snaking outta its stomach, a sickening nest of blue and white rotted intestines. There was a gaping hole in its chest where its heart should’ve been...but there never was one...even in life, just a black void. There hadn’t actually been any significance to stabbing it in the heart...had there? No...Daryl told himself there wasn’t...he didn’t even remember doin’ it. The only evidence it was him who done the damage was his hands covered in its tainted blood and pieces of viscera...what was left of it...stuck to his face, drying in his stubble, and clinging in his hair. The chest...it was logical...the largest target he had for his rage that wouldn’t kill the walker...and he needed more than just its death. It had nothing to do with the heart. If Daryl kept telling himself that, maybe it would make it true.
He was more of a man than this thing...his father...would ever be...
Merle left...left him behind when he was just a little kid to bear the lash of their father. Life gave him a chance, a reunion between the brothers...a moment where Merle’d told him he had no choice...had to leave or he was gonna kill their old man for all he’d done. It was a reason...the truth...but that hadn’t made it any easier for Daryl to stomach. How did Merle even factor into the anguish Daryl was feeling now? It was all the abandonment that made the abuse even worse.
He’d been left alone...no big brother to stand up for him, mom eventually died and left him too...the fire that burned her away like she was just gone the reason he ended up out here. Just him and his old man; he was nothing more than a sack of flesh for the drunken piece of shit to beat out his frustrations on. Told Daryl he was nothin’ and nobody every day of his life whether he was speaking with his mouth, his fists, or his belt...said it all the same. Merle was dead now...at least Merle made it right in the end...as right as he could, sacrificed for ‘em all. But the walker...toothless, black foamed mouth chomping at him...there would be no reconciliation, even in death. Perhaps it was the bloodlust, or the fear, or all the emotions that had been pent up for years inside Daryl...too broken and worthless and ground under his old man’s heel to ever stand up and say somethin...that altered the thing that used to be his father. In Daryl’s eyes, the flesh beneath the gaunt face filled out and grew full again, clouded lifeless eyes became sharp and cruel so fixated on him, alive with hate. It was...it became the man himself, living and breathing, just like the last time he looked upon him. Part of Daryl feared in coming back that his old man would still be alive. The realistic part of him knew he’d be dead and gone. But fate met his expectations somewhere in between. It had to be a blessing in disguise...closure...Daryl had to make it something.
Some people didn’t deserve to live; this one in front of him was one of ‘em. The way it was before, wasn’t nothin’ you could do ‘bout that. Good people suffered and evil survived and thrived. Now, things were different. His old man was at the end of his existence, about to be erased. But first he was gonna listen...Daryl finally realizing what it was he was doin’...what he needed. He was gonna make him listen...hear his son.Daryl was gonna say his peace.
“You tired to kill me...tried to destroy me...didn’t just try...almost did.”
The rabid, blood spittin’ thing got all the more charged up when he started talking, all stimulated by sound, but Daryl still saw the face of his father in the crepey skin covering bone.
“Even when I got away, you had me walkin’ aroundknowing I was nothin’ and nobody. But you were fucking wrong. I was wrong.”
Did he actually just say that...mean it?Yes.
“I made it.” He was strong. Stronger than he ever knew. “And I made somethin’ of myself. I am someone...”
Daryl was starting to lose it...starting to lose the little composure he had if that could ever be said of someone covered in the blood and gore he was bathed in while facing the specter that had haunted him his entire life.
“I’m someone even though you tried to...you broke me. I’m man enough to fucking admit that...more of a man than you ever were. You told me I was nothin’...but that wasn’t true. I found my place. People cared ‘bout me...stood by me...fought by me...and look at you...You...”
Voice cracking...even though there was no on there, saying these things didn’t come easy. The thing that used to be his father but was never a father hissing and trying to charge at him...still trying to kill him...
“Where’d all that hate get you? You’re dead. And I...I’m glad for it.” A chilling realization struck him. “I’m the last Dixon standing...” The last of his blood. Was the world better that way?
But he wasn’t alone...never would be again. He’d have Beth standing by him even if it all burned to ash around them. And if one of them died, he would go first.
“And I’ve got a girl...a good girl...”
Don’t ask me how in the hell that happened...
“She loves me. Who in the hell ever loved you? She loves me ‘cause of who I am, and she makes an honest man outta me...makes me a better man. And I...I deserve her. I’ve earned...I deserve her love. But you don’t get to hear her name. You don’t get to know it. You don’t get...deserve nothin’ of her goodness.”
She made him strong. Made him the man he was...finally standing for himself whether or not it counted. Defying his old man to the last, Daryl wouldn’t say it out loud...Beth...wouldn’t pronounce it where he could hear, knowing just how much name meant to the prick.
Look at you, bawlin' like a lil' pussy. You spill my beer...who do you think you are, huh? Who do you think you are?
Dad...sorry...Dad...I love you...
You stupid lil' som'bitch. You don't even deserve my name. You ain't good enough you skinny lil' pansy ass...you're weak...you ain't nothin'. You could've been anybody's, but I was the prick who fucked your mom that night...got stuck with you...you shouldn't have been nothin' but a fucking stain on my bed sheet..."
“Who do I think I am? It’s not who I think I am, it’s who I know I am. I’m Daryl Dixon.You’re the one who doesn’t deserve the name Dixon. I’ve made good on it. I’ve made it mean something...this life...my life...my name, and you don’t deserve the honor. You...not me! That blood running through your veins...”
The blood on Daryl’s hands meant so much more...
Blood meant even more than name...something Daryl always felt was a vile blackness pumping through him...something he could never purge...it defined who he was...but now...
It was strange...funny the way things finally clicked and what you realized when you least expected it. For Daryl, the inkling that rooted itself in his mind...a memory of a moment that finally made sense had his heart quivering. The pictures...Beth wanting to keep the pictures she found of him. Staring at the past in front of him that might be still moving but was already dead, the chance the present was giving him for closure, and the promise of the future this one tiny realization gave him...
“The pictures...your pictures...” Beth was so meek, her words stuttering out when he caught her arm before she could gather the images tacked to the bulletin board.
“Leave ‘em. Nobody wants ‘em...” Part of Daryl wanted those pictures...no...that wasn’t right...part of him longed for somebody to want pictures of him, these pictures...no matter how sordid his past. But he couldn’t say it...couldn’t let Beth want them...couldn’t ask that of her. “They belong here anyway.”
She said something else, something poetic and beautiful, trying to convince him, but all Daryl could do was focus on her perfect lips...pale pink and soft...he didn’t have to hear what she was sayin’ to know the perfect words were flowing from between her perfect lips. So perfect...
“What if someday...somebody...what if someday somebody comes along...” Beth was so endearingly unable to speak...almost flustered...but so sweet in trying to express herself. “What if your family wants to know what you looked like...what you looked like in the world before...what the world looked like before with you in it?”
He’d heard her, but he hadn’t actually heard her...comprehended...too wrapped up in what he thought she was seeing as his inadequacies and shameful past...feeling too sorry for himself to understand. Daryl finally got why she was having such a hard time getting it all out...her words...it was what she meant.
“...what if someday somebody comes along...what if your family...”
Beth didn’t mean Rick or Carl, Maggie, Glenn, or Michonne or any of the rest of ‘em. She knew the chances of all of them meeting up again were nil to none, but she was okay with that.She meant someone who was all his...someone who wasn’t alive yet...a...
Something wracked his chest that felt like a sob, but he wasn’t sad, just not so good at dealing with all these foreign emotions...
“I ain’t what you made me...those scars you tore into my back...I’m gonna carry those scars for the rest of my life, but I’m not ashamed anymore ‘cause you don’t own me.”
Daryl could still feel the prong of his old man’s belt buckle carving the stinging rivers of blood in his back driven by the full force of a man who wished he’d never been born. It was good that he remembered the pain ‘cause the scary part was when he stopped feeling...went cold and hard...when he didn’t feel the strikes. When he stopped feeling and became.
“I’m not my scars...”
Just like he’d told Beth, wavering in his belief then but trying to make it his truth so she believed...so she knew she wasn’t her scars. Now he knew it was the truth, and he could stand proud on that.
“But I am my name. Dixon. And I am my blood. It’s my name now, not yours. My blood now, not yours. Maybe someday...that girl who loves me...I hope it might be hers too. And if that blood...my bloodline is carried on...you ain’t got no claim to it.”
Even just thinking on it...thinking about that possibility scared the shit outta him. A little one he might fail or disappoint or not be able to protect...maybe he could never be good enough for it. But the flutters beating in his stomach...he couldn’t deny those...something even stronger than instinct. Some men didn’t deserve to be fathers...his old man was one of ‘em...
...you shouldn't have been nothin' but a fucking stain on my bed sheet...
Someday though...if Beth gave him that...gave him a child...maybe Daryl deserved it. And he would never repeat the sins of his father.
“I’m not yours...not your son. You ain’t gonna have a legacy...no one’s ever gonna know you. Your name ends here. But I might have a son...and he’ll have my name...Dixon...my name, not yours.”
They were more words than Daryl probably ever spoke to his old man in his entire life. Here he was spilling his guts to a rotted corpse that couldn’t hurt him anymore.
Leaves rustling behind him...that’s what made him end it...knife drawn and driven in one fluid motion into the crumbling skull that put up absolutely no resistance. Wiping the remnants on the thigh of his pants...just like that, he...it...ceased to exist.Stepping back from the body gone limp against its stake, Daryl bowed his head, not feeling numb, not really feeling much of anything except relief that it was over...all his anger and hatred already poured out. He’d had more to say...a lifetime’s worth...but he’d ended it ‘cause it was boots treading through the leaves at his back even though he’d told her to stay behind. He didn’t want her to see his old man...what he was in death not much different than what he’d been in life. And his old man didn’t deserve to hear Beth’s voice when she spoke, and she would speak...didn’t deserve to have an angel ease any part of him into final death ‘cause if there was an afterlife, he was goin’ straight to Hell. Daryl was smart enough to know that there was nothin’ left in that shell of a body, but he didn’t care...it was the principle of it. Most of all, for selfish reasons, Daryl refused to let his past and his future coexist beside each other...not this ugly part of his past.
He didn’t want Beth to see the bloody mess he’d made...what he’d done, but there wasn’t nothin’ he could do ‘bout that now.
“You’re gettin’ good at that...walkin’ quiet in the woods.” Letting Beth know he heard her approaching, voice all gravel and grit scratching in his throat...but soft for her.
The truth of it was he hadn’t heard her at all ‘til the groundcover betrayed her and woke him up, putting an end to his demon so Beth wouldn’t have to see it. He’d taught her well, and she’d learned quick leaving Daryl wondering just how long she’d been standing there...worried about what she heard. She didn’t say nothin’ though, just moved beside him, reached up, and tenderly stroked his face. Blood...there was so much blood covering him, but it was like she didn’t even see it...she didn’t notice the carnage in front of them neither. She just took his hand in both of hers, drawing it up to her lips, kissing it, paying no mind to what stained him.
Beth didn’t ask any questions. That’s how Daryl knew she knew everything.
“I wish he would’ve been alive for just a few minutes so he could’ve seen the man you are.” Her sweet whisper warmed the scarred flesh at the back of his hand.
Head down...nodding...he had no words for her. But Daryl wished too. Wished his old man would’ve seen him with Beth before he breathed his last ‘cause she was his light...she was goodness and hope and love all wrapped up in one sweet and fierce heart. She was the one who could undo a lifetime of pain with just her innocent smile...and his old man, if he saw her, he would’ve seen what he would never know...she was his defeat.
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~Author’s Note: Hey guys! So happy and grateful to those of you who came back to read this new chapter. I am so excited about Beth and Daryl finally being home. I just wanted to give everyone a little insight into the next chapter. Even though this chapter jumped straight into Daryl facing down his demons upon their arrival, next chapter will go back a little and show Beth and her perspective on their arrival home, seeing it all for the first time. As always, I love you all, and thank you for being so amazing!~